Cape Town is already a magnet for sun-seekers, but now – says Scott Dunn’s man on the ground, Rodger Bowren – the South African city has plenty to offer art-fans, foodies and cool-hunters
Cape Town has long been loved by visitors for its dramatic scenery, its vibrant restaurant scene and its proximity to one of the world’s greatest wine regions. But in the last few years, the city’s appeal has expanded yet further, with the regeneration of former industrial areas into super-cool hotspots filled with designer stores, coffee bars, street art and restaurants.
The opening of the Silo (which houses both a hotel and the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa) has added to the buzz. “Cape Town is now a really exciting place,” says Rodger Bowren, who specialises in showing Scott Dunn guests around the city and surrounding areas. Brought up on a farm near Durban, he’s full of enthusiasm for his adopted home: “There’s so much going on here. The first Thursday of the month, for example, lots of galleries and cultural events are free and open late. People walk between locations and it has a kind of festival feel – it’s a very cool vibe. I’ve been here two years, and things have changed a lot. Cape Town is actually a very small city, and the centre is very saturated. So people started moving out to these old industrial areas, such as Woodstock. When I do a city tour for people who don’t know Cape Town at all, we start in the main heart of the city and work our way down to Woodstock, then to the suburbs and beaches like Camps Bay. People get a whole perspective of how the city is changing.”
Scott Dunn can organise anything you want in the city and surrounding countryside, from foodie experiences to art tours and walks on the wild side. “We like our guests to experience things a bit differently,” Bowren says, “so if we do a hike to a well-known mountain, we have our own individual spots and routes, so you feel like you’re there all by yourself.”
If it’s a full moon, he suggests joining the walk up Lion’s Head. “People climb the mountain with headlamps, so you see a spiral of lights going up to the top. It’s very beautiful.”
Cape Town has so many beautiful beaches. The Cliftons (known simply as First, Second, Third and Fourth) are very famous, and there’s a real scene there: lots of pretty girls and ripped guys. But my favourite has to be Glen Beach. It’s much quieter, fewer tourists go there – mostly locals. It’s very clean, there are no hawkers, there are massive boulders and the scenery is beautiful. It’s a great spot to watch the locals surf and enjoy a sundowner.
This is such a cool gallery. The building was designed by Thomas Heatherwick and it’s worth going to for the architecture alone. It shows work by artists from all over Africa, and to get the best out of it you should take a guided tour, which we can organise. A friend of mine, Anna Rosholt – one of the top jewellery designers in Cape Town and someone who really knows her art – will show you round. There’s also a great rooftop bar there with amazing views of the city.
This is a tough call as we’re spoilt for top restaurants in Cape Town. But my absolute favourite is Chef’s Warehouse in Beau Constantia, just 25 minutes’ drive away, round the back of Table Mountain, and home to some of the oldest wine farms in the country. It’s in a beautiful location, with lovely views of False Bay. The food is sensational, the wine is delicious, the service is great. It gets very busy, so we’d always book ahead for guests if they’re interested. There’s also another branch in the city itself.
This is one of the most lively areas of the city. It used to be full of old dilapidated factories and buildings, but now they’re all being converted into cool design stores, galleries, hipster cafés. Some of South Africa’s top restaurants are here, in the Old Biscuit Mill building, like The Test Kitchen and The Pot Luck Club. There’s also some epic street art around. Often it has political or social meaning but in Woodstock it’s mostly these beautiful pictures of people’s faces and massive elephants and giraffes and wild animals. We do art tours for guests with me and a well-known street artist called Mark1. It’s a great one for teenagers – they’re always fascinated. Then we end the tour with a hand- crafted beer or gin tasting, all produced locally.
Cape Town is a great city to buy crafts; there’s some awesome stuff. The Watershed is a massive warehouse filled with work by artisans from all over Africa: wood sculptures, clothes, beadwork, art. Everything is unique, a proper makers’ market, and you don’t get hassled at all. Then down at Greenmarket Square there are the pop-up stalls selling very traditional African pieces – masks, drums and so on. But one of my favourite places is BO-OP, a small shop that sells work by local artists and makers, really unusual stuff: sunglasses made from upcycled materials, clothes, jewellery (including Anna Rosholt’s). It’s in a really characterful area called Bo-Kaap, which is full of brightly coloured houses and definitely worth visiting.
A township tour can be an authentic, memorable, eye-opening experience. We work with a local resident called Siphiwe, who has lived in an informal settlement called Imizamo Yethu in Hout Bay for the past 18 years. Because I was brought up on a farm, I speak Xhosa, which is the language here, so that tends to put everyone at ease. Siphiwe shares stories and talks about the community’s struggles, but also about its positive plans for the future.
One of my favourite experiences is a morning hike with a researcher from the Cape Leopard Trust. Not many people know that the mountains surrounding Franschoek, the wine and culinary heart of South Africa, are home to an apex predator, the Cape Leopard. Immerse yourself in their natural habitat and assist the guides in monitoring a camera trap. After the hike, enjoy a well-earned lunch at one of the wine estates, where you’ll have the chance to see what the hidden camera picked up.
There are lots of markets in Cape Town but my favourite is Oranjezicht. It’s on a Saturday at the V&A Waterfront and it’s where local independent farmers and artisanal producers go to sell their stuff. It has a lovely relaxed vibe and it’s a very cool place to wander around with family and friends. There’s another food market on the Waterfront and there’s also a very old flower market at Trafalgar Place in Adderley Street that’s been going for more than 150 years.
A helicopter trip is an incredible way to see the rugged coastline of the most southwestern point of Africa. We land at Miller’s Point and do a private ocean safari with marine biologist Steve Benjamin, who has worked with David Attenborough – ending up at a secluded cove in the reserve for a tapas-style barbecue. Then we drive back to town, spotting baboons and ostrich on the way. So you experience Cape Point by air, water and land.
There’s a place I love to take guests to for a really magical sundowner. It’s a 40-minute hike up onto this little rocky outcrop, Oppelskop, which has amazing views of the city, the mountains, the ocean and Robben Island. There’s no one there, just the odd trail runner. The sun sets behind Lion’s Head, which becomes a silhouette – that and Table Mountain are among the most iconic sights in Cape Town. It’s really worth the hike; you feel like you’re the only people up there, and when you arrive, another of our guides will have set up the drinks – which is the cherry on the cake!
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